Conditions that Resemble Respiratory Infections

Some conditions have symptoms that resemble respiratory tract infections, but their source isn’t a virus or bacteria. These conditions could delay your diagnosis (of a respiratory tract infection) and complicate your treatment. Thus, healthcare providers have to rule out one or more of these conditions to diagnose your respiratory infection.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a condition that resembles respiratory infections. Even though allergic can affect your entire respiratory tract, like respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis is much different. The primary difference is its source. When you inhale an allergen, it irritates the cells, blood vessels, and nerves within your nose, creating inflammation.

Source of Allergens

The most common sources of allergens that cause allergic rhinitis include seasonal pollens, molds, and indoor allergens.

Does Allergic Rhinitis Occur with other Conditions?

The simple answer is yes. Allergic rhinitis is most likely to occur with asthma. However, it can also appear with eczema and pink eye.

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis resemble a respiratory tract infection. They include:

  • Congestion
  • Runny or itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosing Allergic Rhinitis

A diagnosis of allergic rhinitis depends on different factors.

  • A history of symptoms based on exposure to an allergen or irritant.
  • Physical exam
  • Skin tests

Managing and Treating Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a long-standing condition. However, most symptoms clear up on their own within a few days. For many of you, managing your allergic rhinitis will involve treating your symptoms.

Glucocorticoids are the most effective form of treatment. However, they are known to cause adverse reactions. For that reason, healthcare providers may try other options first. Your provider may recommend oral or nasal spray antihistamines, as they block the immune cells that are causing inflammation. Additionally, decongestants shrink your inflamed and swollen blood vessels and tissues. Finally, as a last resort, some people need immunotherapy. Often, healthcare providers save this form of treatment for cases when all other options were ineffective.


Our bodies have a natural defensive mechanism that protects us when we swallow. But, sometimes, this mechanism doesn’t work. Aspiration happens as a result.

Understanding Aspiration

To the untrained eye, aspiration can resemble a respiratory infection. But, aspiration isn’t a health condition. Aspiration is an infectious process that happens when secretions, fluid, or particles enter your airways and not your digestive system. In some cases, this matter can enter your lungs. Once it reaches your lungs, you have aspiration pneumonia.

Signs and Symptoms of Aspiration

Many of the symptoms that indicate aspiration resemble respiratory infections. For instance:

  • Sudden onset of trouble breathing
  • Crackling sound in the lungs
  • Fever
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Changes in vocal quality ⎯ such as a wet or gurgly voice

Diagnosing Aspiration

Diagnosing aspiration requires images of the lungs, either a chest x-ray or a CT scan. Both procedures allow healthcare providers to determine the location of the aspiration.

Managing and Treating Aspiration

Treating aspiration involves steroid medications, and in some cases, oxygen and ventilation. If it develops into aspiration pneumonia, your healthcare provider will prescribe an antibiotic. In more significant cases, where the volume of secretions in the lungs is high, people require surgery.


Asthma is another one of the conditions whose symptoms can resemble respiratory infections. Learn more about its symptoms, causes and triggers, and different treatment options here.


COPD is another condition with symptoms that can resemble respiratory infections. Learn more about its symptoms, causes and triggers, and different treatment options here.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer among both genders. It is also the most common cause of all cancer-related deaths worldwide. But did you know that lung cancer is another condition that resembles different respiratory infections? Lung cancer affects the genes, cells, and tissues of the respiratory system. Hence, how this condition resembles a respiratory infection.

Who’s at Risk?

Tobacco smoke is the leading risk factor for developing lung cancers. So, active and even former smokers are at risk. However, non-smokers also develop lung cancer. What this suggests is that there are other risk factors. One is genetics. Your risk for developing lung cancer is higher if lung cancer runs in your family. Another risk factor is infections. Certain infections and conditions, like HIV and COPD, increase the risks for lung cancer. Also, different diets and foods may cause cancer. Finally, exposure to environmental carcinogens, such as polluted air and asbestos, makes you more susceptible to developing lung cancer.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Often, symptoms of lung cancer don’t become noticeable until the cancer is in a more advanced stage.

  • Cough (dry or with blood)
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Weight loss

Detecting Lung Cancer

Most times, detection is late due to the presentation of symptoms. However, with persistent symptoms, healthcare providers use imaging techniques, such as chest x-rays and CT scans.

Is Lung Cancer Curable?

Lung cancer is incurable. However, with early stages of cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, drug therapy that targets the gene mutation, and in some cases, surgery increases your risk for survival.


Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that affects multiple body systems and organs, such as the lungs, liver, eyes, heart, and nervous system.

Causes of Sarcoidosis

We don’t know what causes sarcoidosis. However, there are a few known risks and factors that contribute to its development. The first risk factor is a genetic predisposition. For instance, people with siblings who with sarcoidosis have higher risks. Additionally, Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately affected. Other risk factors are environmental factors, like exposure to insecticides, tree pollen, and certain workers, like shipmen, fire workers, and educators.

Symptoms of Sarcoidosis

The symptoms depend on the affected organs and systems. However, most people experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Persistent dry cough
  • Labored breathing
  • Chest discomfort
  • Low-grade fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Skin and eye manifestations

Diagnosing Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis can be hard to diagnose because of its systemic nature and unknown cause. It is for that reason that healthcare providers take many steps to diagnose sarcoidosis.

Treating Sarcoidosis

Some people with sarcoidosis don’t need treatment. In fact, treatment depends on developing dangerous clinical conditions and impaired quality of life. Corticosteroids are the first line of treatment. They help relieve symptoms and can reverse organ dysfunction. Corticosteroids, however, aren’t the only treatment. Your healthcare provider may prescribe immunomodulators as second-line therapy.